If you’re a reapplicant, you already know how difficult, time-consuming, and expensive the medical school application process is. You’ve been down that road before, and you definitely want your second time around to be your last.
But to ensure your success, you absolutely must approach your application differently. First of all, whatever you did last time clearly didn’t get you where you needed or wanted to be. Secondly, admissions committees expect to see more from reapplicants—they want to see you’ve taken the time to improve your application. You must explain, with clear examples, how you’re a better candidate now.
We’ve seen many reapplicants repeat the same costly mistakes. To avoid another rejection, don’t make the following reapplicant mistakes.
1 | Applying Before You Are Ready
If you’re not ready and don’t have the time to get ready to apply to medical school, don’t apply yet.
The idea of taking yet another year before going to medical school may sound daunting, but it is by far the better choice if you aren’t ready to apply. As a reapplicant, you have a tough choice to make, especially if you only found out you didn’t get an acceptance late into the spring.
Take time to carefully assess your application. What went wrong? Ask for feedback from mentors, and if you can, seek out one-on-one advising so that you can hear the cold, hard, objective truth about the weaknesses of your application.
Do you have enough time to make the necessary changes to your application? Remember, you will need a new personal statement on top of the other improvements you must make to get your application to where it needs to be. (More on that below.)
Timing is key. For a better chance as a reapplicant, you must submit your application as soon as applications open or at least within the first few weeks. Submitting your application early is one of the best advantages you can give yourself as a premed.
Be honest with yourself. Do you actually have the time, energy, and resources to improve your application by June? If not, seriously consider delaying your application by another year. You’re much better off submitting your application the following cycle when it’s stronger and you’ve collected more experience than it is to hastily force your application when you aren’t ready.
The decision to take a gap year is not a failure—in fact, it can often prove to be the smart decision, and if fully taken advantage of, it can put you in a far better position moving into your medical career. One more year is only a drop in the bucket of your long medical education and career. Plus, you have to consider that rushing another application in time for the current year may not result in an acceptance, meaning you’ll just end up back where you started.
If you choose to take a gap year, do so with a plan to gain targeted, specific experience designed to improve your application. Make a plan and approach your application with improvement and time management top of mind. You want to be fresh and ready to go for the next application cycle so that nothing is left to chance.
2 | Not Making Effective Application Changes
Whether you apply right away or choose to wait a year, what’s most important is that you determine what application changes will make the most impact.
Assess your application and have others assess it too. What do you need to improve to become a competitive candidate?
If your MCAT score was average compared to other matriculants, chances are there are other notable weak areas across your application. However, if you had a below average score for the schools you are applying to, it may be time to consider an MCAT retake.
If you struggled with secondary applications and didn’t submit them within the two-week recommended window, it might be a time management issue you need to solve. If you received interview invites but didn’t receive any offers after interviewing, it’s likely you need to dedicate time to improving your interview skills.
Your time is limited, so you absolutely must make the most of it. If you already have a good or great MCAT score, that’s likely not the area you should be focusing your time on. Consider all aspects of your application. Do you have a compelling and engaging personal statement? Do you have strong letters of recommendation? Do you have a variety of experiences that you can speak about clearly while tying these experiences into the overall narrative of your application?
3 | Applying to the Wrong Schools
This is another chance for you to assess and be brutally honest with yourself. You may have always dreamed of going to an Ivy League school, but are your scores, grades, work experiences, and overall application strong enough to gain you a prestigious acceptance?
Applying to the same schools you applied to before is completely okay, so long as you can demonstrate yourself to be a competitive applicant. Be realistic about your odds at each school you apply to. Take time to research what’s expected and the averages of the previous year’s matriculants using the MSAR.
We recommend applying to 15-20 schools when you apply to medical school, but as a reapplicant, in most cases, we recommend you increase that number to 25-30.
Again, this time around, include a mixture of reach, safety, and fallback schools. Since you either didn’t include fallback schools or they didn’t work out the first time you applied, add more fallback schools for extra insurance.
4 | Keeping the Same Personal Statement
Reapplicants shouldn’t reuse the same personal statement when they reapply. This is because the story you need to tell is now different.
Admissions committees expect you to weave your reapplicant story into your personal statement. How have you grown, and what did you learn over this extra time? Do you have an understanding of what went wrong the first time, and have you put in the time and effort to make the necessary improvements to your personal statement?
You don’t need to completely scrap your last personal statement, and you shouldn’t. Stay true to your core reasons for wanting to be a physician. If you completely change your reasoning for wanting to become a doctor, admissions committees may question the authenticity of your story.
Consider what new anecdotes you can add, especially if you’ve gained more experience since. How can you illustrate your notable improvements and continued commitment to medicine?
5 | Receiving Neutral or Bland Letters of Recommendation
In most cases, since you don’t see and can’t review your submitted letters of evaluation, you’ll have to judge the strength of your letters based on the strength of your relationships.
Strong letters are a key component of a successful application. A generic and mundane evaluation can (and will) negatively impact your application. This is because letters of recommendation are an admissions committee’s inside look into how others see you and your skills. If you have yet to build the type of relationships needed to gain strong letters of recommendation, it sends a clear red flag to schools that you may not be as skilled or as hardworking as you say you are.
Medical schools are looking for students who will thrive working with others and under supervision. They want to accept future doctors who can work on a team and build relationships within the medical field.
Do not underestimate the benefits of a strong letter of evaluation, as well as the negative impact a neutral one can have.
As a reapplicant, you don’t need to get new letters if you know the ones you have are strong. Carefully consider the strength of your relationships, as well as the time that has gone by since you asked for those letters.
If you received a letter from a professor you took a class with three years ago, there’s a good chance the letter isn’t overly descriptive and doesn’t accurately illustrate who you are today.
6 | Failing to Present a Cohesive Narrative
Developing a cohesive narrative is a key piece of a successful medical school application. As a reapplicant, you need to give yourself every advantage possible, so put in extra effort to ensure your application flows together.
Each component of your application, from your personal statement to your work and activities to everything in between, works together to give admissions committee members a clear view of who you are and why they should accept you.
You don’t want your personal statement to be a rehash of your CV, and you don’t want your work and activities section to repeat what you’ve already said in your personal statement. Each section of your application should bring something new to the table while also complimenting and continuing your overall narrative.
7 | Being Caught Off Guard By the Pace of Secondaries
Timing is so critical when it comes to medical school applications. There’s very little room for delay since schools accept students on a rolling basis. This means admissions committees review applications sequentially as they receive them.
So, the later you submit your application, the further behind other candidates you will be starting. Being behind at the beginning will continue to lessen your chances of acceptance because schools will start picking from the first pool of candidates they interview.
We can’t stress this enough: submitting your application early is one of the best things you can do to stay competitive.
The “time is of the essence” rule holds true well beyond the initial submission of your primary application. Soon after your primary, you’ll begin receiving a secondary application request, and these cannot be delayed. All of your secondaries should be completed within two weeks or less of receiving them.
As a reapplicant, it’s very likely that you’ve applied to more schools than you did the first time around. While the safety net is there for a reason, it does mean you’ll have to submit more secondaries. You must prepare answers in advance in order to complete secondaries as soon as possible after you receive them.
If you struggled with time management the first time you applied, take extra care in planning ahead for your secondary applications. Prepare as much as you can by drafting answers to common secondary questions and preparing a clear schedule for yourself.
Learn more by reading our comprehensive Medical School Secondary Application Guide, which includes secondary deadlines, costs, strategies, answers to common questions, and FAQs.
8 | Losing Steam During Interview Season or Delaying Interview Prep
By the time you get to interview season, you are undoubtedly feeling at least a little drained. But it is essential that you maintain your focus, commitment, and enthusiasm in this final stretch.
Poor interviews can make or break your chances of acceptance, no matter how outstanding your application was up until that point. During interviews, you’ll meet with the decision makers, who will decide your fate based on their first impressions of you, your communication skills, and the content of your answers.
If you received a reasonable amount of interviews when you first applied but still didn’t gain an acceptance, you’ll need to put extra focus into honing your interview skills. Don’t leave this until you begin receiving interview invites. It takes time to develop your interview skills, and depending on your natural comfort level with interviews, you may need months of preparation, including time to schedule mock interviews.
Interview preparation is much more than memorizing answers to common questions. In fact, you should avoid memorizing your answers altogether because doing so will make you appear rigid and rehearsed instead of knowledgeable and confident.
Learn more: How to Improve Your Interview Confidence.
When your answers are memorized word for word, you can easily get tripped up if you miss a step or lose your place. Plus, if you get a question you’re unfamiliar with or one that’s worded in a different way, you’ll have difficulty re-crafting your answer on the fly to suit the specific question. As you prepare for interviews, practice answering different versions of the same question so that you become comfortable adjusting and adapting your answers.
Add pressure to better simulate the real interview process by surprising yourself with questions on the spot. How can you adapt your key points to each question? As you practice in front of other people or during mock interviews, attempt to adapt your answers to the interviewer as well as the flow of the natural conversation.
Your previous interview attire should work just fine the next time you apply, but make sure to do another test well in advance to ensure everything still fits and feels comfortable. If there was an aspect of your interview clothing that you felt uncomfortable with the first time you interviewed, make sure you make adjustments or invest in a better outfit before your next set of interviews.
The same goes for interview day. If something didn’t go well the first time, such as transportation coordination, getting up early, arriving on time, finding time to warm up your vocal cords, etc., make changes that will ensure you don’t make the same interview mistakes twice.
Learn more in our comprehensive Medical School Interview Guide, as well as our guide to 21 Medical School Interview Questions and How to Answer Them.
9 | Not Seeking Help When You Need It
Far too often, premeds choose to go it alone, but you don’t need to. Countless people have been just where you are now, and it’s okay to ask for help. Asking mentors for advice or investing in a tutor is far from a sign of weakness—it shows you understand the power of feedback and want to manage your time to the best of your ability.
As a reapplicant, an assessment of your previous application by someone who is unbiased and understands the ins and outs of the application process is invaluable. You need to make smart, calculated decisions on what you need to improve and focus on before applying again, or you may end up in the exact same position one cycle later.
Get the Help You Need
Our team at Med School Insiders has served on admissions committees at top medical schools, and we specialize in helping reapplicants win acceptance. We’ve meticulously designed proprietary systems to achieve one single purpose—getting you into medical school.
Our team includes the best in the industry. Each physician advisor on the Med School Insiders team has passed our exceedingly rigorous 5 step application process and excelled in their own careers as doctors. We can help—just look at our results.
Our website is filled with resources for helping first time applicants, reapplicants, and medical students succeed. Check out our other popular reapplicant guide: 6 Steps to Reapplying to Medical School.